Monday, November 16, 2015

2015 Toyota RAV4 XLE

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 With their up-for-anything personality, easy-to-park size, and hardly no appetite for fuel, compact crossovers are some of the most popular vehicles on the market today. Versatility is by far their greatest asset, as you can easily fill them with car seats, groceries, sports equipment, or the latest spoils from your most recent shopping trip. Among these practical SUV's, the Toyota RAV4 has long been a favorite of savvy shoppers of all ages and tastes.

     Thanks to more competent rivals, the RAV4 isn't quite a no-brainer pick anymore. Still, you are likely to find that it checks off most of your boxes on that must have list.

     The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is a 5-passenger compact crossover that is offered in 3 main trims: LE, XLE, and Limited.

     The LE comes standard with 17-inch steel wheels, automatic headlamps, power folding mirrors, keyless entry, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, a/c, cruise control, and tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split fold and reclining 2nd row seat, rear-view camera, Bluetooth, and a 6-speaker sound system with a 6.1-inch touchscreen.

     The XLE adds 17-inch alloy wheels, fog-lights, heated side mirrors with integrated turn signals, roof rails, sunroof, dual zone auto climate control, sportier front seats, a cargo cover, and extendable sun visors. The audio system on the XLE is upgraded to include satellite radio, HD radio, traffic and weather. Options for the XLE include a height-adjustable power liftgate, a navigation system, and Toyota's Entune system.
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     The top-of-the line Limited comes with all of the above plus 18-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry and ignition, an auto-dimming rear-view mirror, a leather wrapped steering wheel and shift knob, an 8-way power adjustable driver seat with memory settings, and premium synthetic leather upholstery.

     Options on the Limited include a navigation system bundled with an 11-speaker JBL audio system. The Technology package adds a blind spot monitoring system with cross traffic warning, a lane departure warning system, and automatic high-beam headlamp control. There is also the Blizzard Pearl Premium package which adds the Blizzard Pearl color, and 18-inch machine finished wheels with black accents.

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 The 2015 Toyota RAV4 is powered by a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine that makes 176 horsepower and 172 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission is standard, and all trims come with the option of all wheel drive.

     In testing, the RAV4 equipped with AWD took 9.3 seconds to reach 60 mph, which is average in this class. The front wheel drive equipped RAV4 is EPA rated for 26 mpg combined in LE and XLE trim, while trims with AWD come in at 25 mpg combined, which are good numbers, but hardly class leading.

     Standard safety equipment on every 2015 Toyota RAV4 includes anti-lock disc brakes, rear-view camera, stability and traction control, whiplash-reducing front head restraints, front-seat side airbags, and full length side curtain airbags. A driver knee airbag is also standard. The optional Technology Package on the Limited provides blind spot monitoring, rear cross traffic alerts, and lane departure warnings. In testing, my vehicle came to a stop from 60 mph in about 130 feet, which is roughly 5 feet longer than the average. In crash test ratings, the RAV4 has earned 4 out of a possible 5 stars for overall protection.

     The 2015 Toyota RAV4 features an interior design with pronounced angles and lines that form a streamlined and modern looking dash. Overall, the materials used are average for the class, and a few of the audio and climate controls feel a little on the cheap side. The cupholder count is fine, but there aren't as many useful storage cubbies like you will find in other vehicles in this class.
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     Although all of the RAV4's audio system have Toyota's Entune branding, only XLE and Limited models with the navigation system include the Entune suite of apps. There is a decent amount of functionality here, but getting started can be a bit of a pain as you have to download the app, then register for an account. Plus, you always need an active data connection to use all of the features. The touchscreen interface has straightforward menus, but it's sometimes unresponsive to user inputs. On the upside, all of the basic controls in the RAV4 are easy to use.

     The cargo bay measures in at 38.4 cubic feet with the rear seats up, and can grow to a respectable 73.3 cubic feet with the rear seat folded. There is a bonus to having a lower mounted rear seat like in the 2015 Toyota RAV4, a near flat floor, and a low load-in height which will help to reduce the strain on your body when you are lifting heavier objects into the vehicle.

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 Most small crossover shoppers will find the RAV4's 2.5 liter engine adequate for most tasks, and fuel efficient enough. The 6-speed automatic transmission shifts smoothly, but if you tend to drive more aggressive, you might find it slow to down shift in passing situations. Additionally, when climbing steady mountain grades, the transmission has a tendency to hunt between gears. Both of these are more than likely due to the transmission being set-up more on the fuel economy side of things.

     The 2015 RAV4 handles well and feels refined and comfortable when cruising down the highway. A potential exception to this is the Limited trim, which can get a little rough on harsh pavement thanks to the larger wheels. In spite of this, the cabin remains very quiet, making the RAV4 a good option for families with young children who tend to sleep in the car.

2016 Mazda CX-5

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With their ample cargo space, rather good fuel efficiency, elevated driving positions, and enhanced poor-weather driving capabilities, compact crossover SUV's have huge appeal. Indeed, this is one of the post popular auto segments. Within that crowded class, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 stands out as one of my favorites.

     What pushes this Mazda to the front of the class is that, in addition to satisfying those core requirements, it also boasts a rather nicely trimmed cabin, excellent safety ratings, a smooth and quiet ride, comfortable seats and good visibility. The CX-5 also has something quite rare in this segment: a fun-to-drive personality that comes by way of its precise steering and sporty handling. With the bigger engine that's standard on most trim levels, the CX-5 also provides an impressive combination of peppy acceleration and high fuel economy numbers. Whether you are driving to work, running errands, or dropping the kids off somewhere, the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is enjoyable to drive and as comfortable and as easy to live with as your favorite pair of jeans. These traits also make the CX-5 a great road trip companion.

     The 2016 Mazda CX-5 is a 5-passenger compact crossover SUV available in Sport, Touring, and Grand Touring trims. All trim levels offer a choice of front wheel drive, or all wheel drive.

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     The base Sport comes standard with 17-inch alloy wheels, full power accessories, a/c, cruise control, height adjustable driver seat, tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, and a 4 speaker sound system.

     Initially, the Sport will offer an optional Mazda Connect package that adds a 7-inch touchscreen interface, a multi-function controller knob, HD radio, Pandora Internet Radio, automatic crash notification, SMS text message reading, and voice controls. Later in the model year, the Rear Camera Package will supplant that, and add all of those features, plus the rear-view camera.

      The Touring includes all of the above and adds a more powerful engine, keyless ignition and entry, blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems, 6-way power driver seat, 40/20/40 split folding rear seat, 6 speaker sound system, upgraded cloth upholstery, and a leather wrapped steering wheel. The Moonroof and Bose Audio Package adds a sunroof and an upgraded 9-speaker Bose Audio system.

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 The Grand Touring includes all of the above plus 19-inch wheels, automatic headlamps, automatic windshield wipers, heated mirrors, dual zone auto climate control, satellite radio, heated front seats, and leather upholstery.

     Available on both the Touring and Grand Touring is the Technology Package. It adds a navigation system, Smart City Brake Support System, adaptive LED headlamps, LED running lights, LED fog lights, LED tail lights, and an auto-dimming rear-view mirror. Optional on the Grand Touring is the i-ActiveSense Package that adds adaptive cruise control, Smart Brake Support, lane departure warning, and automatic high-beam headlamp control.

     The 2016 Mazda CX-5 Sport comes with a choice of 2 powertrains. You can chose either a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine with 155 horsepower and 150 lb.-ft of torque matched to a 6-speed manual transmission, or a 2.5 liter 4 cylinder engine with 184 horsepower and 185 lb.-ft of torque that is paired to a 6-speed automatic transmission. All-wheel drive is optional on Sport when you equip it with the 2.5 liter engine. The bigger engine is standard on Touring and Grand Touring models.

     The EPA estimated fuel economy for a FWD Sport is 29 mpg combined. All FWD CX-5's with the 2.5 clock in the exact same numbers, while those with AWD come in at 26 mpg combined. In testing, my tester that was equipped with the 2.5 liter engine and AWD accelerated to 60 mph in a very respectable 8 seconds.
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     Every 2016 Mazda CX-5 comes standard with anti-lock brakes, stability and traction control, front side airbags, and side curtain airbags. An automatic crash notification feature is optional on the Sport, and standard on the Touring and Grand Touring, which also get blind spot and rear cross traffic warning systems.

     Optional on Touring and Grand Touring is Smart City Brake Support, which is a system that uses a laser to detect objects like other cars or people in front of the car, and will apply the brakes to stop the vehicle at speed up to 19 mph. In brake testing, my CX-5 Grand Touring tester stopped from 60 mph in 121 feet, which is a bit better than average in this class. Crash test ratings for the 2016 Mazda CX-5 are 4 stars for overall crash protection out of a maximum of 5 stars.

     Regardless of the trim level, the cabin of the CX-5 is attractive, modern, and most importantly, functional. It's a mature design, and it isn't loaded up with fake wood or highly reflective chrome trim. Instead, materials are simple and rather high in quality, and soft-touch surfaces are set off with tasteful bits of metallic or piano black trim. The gauges in their contrasting black and white design are quite legible as well.

     The 2016 version of the CX-5 brings a much improved infotainment system. Boasting a 7-inch touchscreen, and a super intuitive multi-function control knob, this is one of the better systems out on the market today. Most drivers should be able to find a comfortable position, and front seat comfort is excellent on long road trips.

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 The Mazda's back seat is plenty spacious and offers plenty of leg room for this class. That rear seat features an innovative folding mechanism on the Touring and Grand Touring trim levels that lowers the seat bottom before folding the seatback on top to provide an almost flat load floor. With all of the seats filled, there is 34.1 cubic feet of cargo space, which grows to a massive 64.8 with the rear seats folded.

     Equipped with the base 2.0 liter engine, the Mazda CX-5 offers competitive power on paper, but it just doesn't feel that strong during passing and merging maneuvers in the real world. For the majority of shoppers in this category, the 2.5 liter engine is a much better choice, given its greater power, and near identical fuel economy numbers. Furthermore, the 6-speed automatic transmission shifts quickly and smoothly, and is easily one of the most responsive transmissions in this class. Mazda still makes a very good manual transmission, but seeing as how that is only offered with the 2.0 liter engine, I feel the appeal is quite limited on that set-up.

     Easily the most striking thing about the 2016 Mazda CX-5 is its athletic character. Even if you are just looking for a small crossover to drive to work everyday, you will notice that its steering, brakes and suspension are unusually capable for a vehicle in this class. It's a rather enjoyable vehicle to run errands in, and if you happen to turn onto a road with twists and turns, the CX-5 could be downright fun. On the highway, the Mazda rides just as comfortably, which makes it a great road trip companion.

2015 Lexus NX 200t F-Sport

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Can you think of things hotter and more wildly popular than the compact luxury crossover SUV segment? Didn't think so. Most shoppers clearly find these models' size, ride height, fuel economy, and premium cabins to be just right for them. Lexus already has a fan favorite in the RX, and it isn't too far north of this segment in terms of size and price, but the company felt that there was room for a more directly aimed contender. Enter the 2015 Lexus NX 200t.

     On the outside, the NX has a distinctive look that takes inspiration from the new IS sedan. Clever interior packaging has led to an impressive amount of rear seat legroom that is more than what is found in most other options in the segment. Cargo room, on the other hand, is lacking a bit, both with the rear seats in the up, or folded down positions.

     The 2015 Lexus NX 200t is a 5 passenger, compact luxury crossover SUV. It is offered in a single trim level, but there is a hybrid NX 300h that might be reviewed on its' own if you would like to read that.

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     Standard equipment includes 17-inch alloy wheels, automatic LED headlamps, LED fog lights and running lights, rear privacy glass, keyless ignition and entry, driver-selectable vehicle dynamics settings, cruise control, dual zone auto climate control, NuLuxe premium vinyl upholstery, a leather wrapped tilt and telescoping steering wheel, 8-way power front seats, a 60/40 split folding and reclining rear seat, a cargo cover, and an auto dimming rear-view mirror. Standard technology features include a 7-inch touchscreen, a rear-view camera, Bluetooth, Siri-based voice controls and readouts for iPhones, the Display Audio electronics interface, and an 8-speaker sound system.

     The NX 200t F-Sport is essentially a package that adds unique 18-inch alloy wheels along with styling elements and summer tires, a sport tuned suspension, transmission paddle shifters, performance gauges, special interior trim and a generated sportier engine note.

     Other packages are also optional, though they can vary by region, so you should check with your Lexus dealer on what you can order. The Comfort package adds a power adjustable steering wheel and driver memory functions. The Premium package includes the Comfort package items and adds 18-inch wheels, auto-dimming exterior mirrors, heated and ventilated front seats ( not on F-Sport,) and a sunroof. The Luxury package includes Comfort and Premium items, then adds things like a power liftgate, automatic wipers, tow package, leather upholstery, a heated steering wheel and wood trim. A power folding rear seat can be added to the Luxury package.

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     The Navigation package adds a navigation system, but also adds the Remote Touch electronics interface, adds 2 speakers to the sound system, voice controls, and various Lexus Enform apps.

     Stand alone options include 18-inch wheels, front and rear parking sensors, various advanced collision warning systems, the sunroof, the power liftgate, upgraded LED headlamps, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel and a wireless charging tray for Qi-compatible smartphones.

 The 2015 Lexus NX 200t is powered by a 2.0 liter turbocharged 4 cylinder engine that produces 235 horsepower and 258 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed automatic transmission and front wheel drive are standard. All-wheel drive is an option.

     In performance testing, my NX 200t F-Sport did the 0-60 mph run in about 6.7 seconds, which is average for the segment. The EPA estimates the fuel economy for the 2015 Lexus NX 200t at 24 mpg combined with all-wheel drive. Those vehicles equipped with front wheel drive should clock in around 25 mpg combined. During testing, I averaged around 25.2 mpg.

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     Every Lexus NX 200t comes standard with anti-lock brakes, traction and stability control, front side airbags, full length side curtain airbags, a driver knee airbag and a front passenger cushion airbag that prevents submarining under the seatbelt and off the seat. A rear-view camera is also standard, along with Lexus Enform Safety Connect. Optional safety features include a blind-spot monitoring system with rear cross traffic alert, as well as a lane departure warning system and a frontal pre-collision system. In brake testing, the NX 200t with summer tires came to a stop from 60 mph in 120 feet, which is several feet better than the average. The government has yet to crash test the NX, but in IIHS testing, the NX earned its' Good rating.

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     The cabin of the 2015 Lexus NX 200t isn't quite as radical as the exterior would make you think, but it nevertheless does exert a vibe that won't be mistaken for anything else in the segment. Construction is the usual top-notch from Lexus with materials that look and feel rather expensive. Soft leather lines the seats and passenger side dash, as well as the padded areas that cushion the center console to keep your legs from hitting a hard surface. Details like contrasting stitching, wood trim and an analog clock are tastefully applied.

The high-mounted climate controls are easy to reach and see, while the secondary controls are intuitive. The infotainment controls are less so, however. The standard Display Audio system uses a knob-and-screen system similar to what you might find in a Mercedes-Benz. With Remote Touch, various menus and icons are selected with a new console-mounted touch pad, just like on your laptop. There is haptic feedback through the pad when you click something, but in general, using this system takes your eyes away from the road for an extended period of time.

     Rear passengers in the NX should find a generous amount of space, at least when compared with most other luxury compact crossovers. Cargo space is tight however. The NX has 54.6 cubic feet of total volume, which is similar to the Mercedes GLK, and just a few feet shy of the Audi Q5. However, the raked tailgate seems to make the space less versatile than the modest volume number would suggest. That is driven home even more when you factor in that with the rear seats up, it offers just 17.7 cubic feet of cargo room, making it less spacious than some of its rivals.
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     If you are expecting the 2015 Lexus NX to be a smaller RX, you are either going to be sadly disappointed, or rather surprised. The ride is a bit more firm, the steering is more responsive and body motions are more controlled when going around turns or through dips. There is a sense of connection between the car and the driver that is missing from most of the other offerings in this class, including the RX. Even more of this engagement can be found in the F-Sport model courtesy of the sport tuned suspension, paddle shifters, extra gauges, and the admittedly extraneous Active Sound Control that pumps artificial engine sound into the cabin.

     One of the reasons the F-Sport has to use artificial engine noise is because of how quiet the NX's cabin is. The engine, in particular, is surprisingly hushed especially when compared with the other 4-cylinder turbocharged engines in the Audi Q5 and Volvo XC60. It's also very smooth and respectably powerful. Current luxury SUV owners who are used to V6 engines are unlikely to complain about have 2 fewer cylinders, if they even notice at all.


2015 Kia Soul !

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 If you take a look at the Kia Soul, you might think that it is hard to put in a category. Is it a hatchback? What about a wagon or small suv? All of the above? Whatever you decide to call it, just know that it appeals to both the head and the heart.

     On the practical side, the Soul offers quite an amazing amount of features, both standard and optional. The cabin of the Soul is a comfortable and rather user-friendly place to be, with good amounts of room and intuitive controls. Kia's Soul will be a friendly companion for errand running as well.

     The Kia Soul has 4 doors and seating for 5. It's available in 3 trims, base, plus, and exclaim.

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     The base comes standard with things like 16-inch steel wheels, roof rack mounting points, rear privacy glass, full power accessories, 3 driver selected steering modes, a/c, height adjustable drivers seat, cloth seating surfaces, a tilt and telescoping steering wheel, a 60/40 split folding rear seat, Bluetooth, a six speaker sound system with cd player, satellite radio. Keyless entry and cruise control are optional.

     The Soul + adds a more powerful engine, 17-inch alloy wheels, keyless entry, cruise control, a 12-volt power outlet in the cargo area, a cargo cover, upgraded cloth seating surfaces, a fold down rear seat armrest, and a front seat center armrest with storage.

     Optional on the base and Soul + the Uvo eServices package adds automatic headlamps, fog lights,a rear view camera, and the Uvo interface.

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 When equipped with this package, the Soul + becomes eligible for 2 more packages. The Audio Package adds auto a/c, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, simulated leather cabin trim, piano black and satin metallic interior accents, a navigation system, an 8-inch touchscreen display, and an upgraded Infinity audio system with speaker lights and a subwoofer. The Primo Package, which requires the Audio Package, adds a panoramic sunroof, fog lights, keyless ignition and entry, leather upholstery, an 8-way power driver seat with 2-way power lumbar support, heated and ventilated seats, heated rear outboard seats, LED interior lighting and a heated steering wheel.

     An Eco Package, optional on the Soul + adds fuel saving features like an auto stop-start system and low rolling resistance 16-inch tires.

     The top of the line Soul! builds upon the Soul+'s Uvo Package, then adds things like 18-inch alloy wheels, body colored fascia accents and bumpers, LED daytime running lights, power folding side mirrors with integrated LED turn signal indicators, an 8-way power driver seat with 2-way power lumbar, an auto-dimming rear view mirror, further upgraded cloth upholstery, a leather wrapped steering wheel and gear shift knob, simulated leather cabin trim and chrome interior accents.
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     The Soul!'s Sun and Sound package provides a panoramic sunroof, automatic climate control, LED interior lighting, the navigation system, 8-inch touchscreen display, HD radio, and the upgraded Infinity sound system. The Whole Shebang package adds xenon lowbeam headlamps, keyless ignition and entry, an upgraded instrument panel, leather upholstery, heated and ventilated front seats, a heated steering wheel and heated rear outboard seats. The Umber package adds special leather upholstery.

     The front wheel drive 2015 Kia Soul is offered with 2 different engines. The base Soul gets a 1.6 liter 4-cylinder engine that produces 130 horsepower and 118 lb.-ft of torque. A 6-speed manual transmission is standard, and a 6-speed automatic is optional. The EPA's figures for the base Soul come in at 24 city/30 highway for 26 combined with either transmission.

     Soul + and ! models have a 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine that makes a stout 164 horsepower and 151 lb.-ft of torque. The 6-speed auto transmission is the only transmission. Fuel economy with the 2.0 liter engine is 23 city/31 highway for 26 mpg combined, and the + with the Eco package comes in at 27 mpg combined. I observed 28 mpg during the week with my tester. In performance testing, the Soul ! did 0-60 mph in 8.9 seconds, which is average for a small wagon/hatchback with an upgraded engine.
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 Standard safety equipment for all Soul models include four-wheel antilock disc brakes, hill-start assist, stability and traction control,  front seat side airbags, side curtain airbags, and active front head restraints. A rear-view camera is standard on the Soul! and included on the other trims when they are equipped with the optional Uvo eServices package.

     In brake testing, the 2015 Kia Soul came to a stop from 60 mph in 112 feet. While this is a short distance, it is worth noting that my tester for the week had the 18-inch wheels. Souls with the smaller wheels may or may not perform the same. In government crash testing, the Soul earned 5 stars overall, which makes it a safe vehicle for your family.

     With its modern look and expressive styling details, the 2015 Kia Soul has a cabin that offers a pretty good balance between form and function. Quality materials make the interior feel more refined than you might expect for a car in this price range.

     Gauges and controls are logically placed and easy to use, and using the Uvo interface to control your smartphone is pretty easy compared to other systems out there. In addition to upgrading the sound quality, the optional Infinity audio system includes trim rings that light up to the beat of your music. It is more of a marketing gimmick, but I have a feeling that some buyers of the Soul will find it quite fun.

     One of the benefits of the Soul's boxy design is the amount of head and legroom, even in the backseat. Behind the rear seatbacks, you will find 19 cubic feet of cargo space, which will grow to 61 cubic feet when you fold both portions of the 60/40 split folding rear seat down. This is greater than compact wagons, and even more than some smaller SUV's. Worth noting however, is that the now defunct Scion xB can hold more cargo.
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     With respectable power on tap from the 2.0 liter 4 cylinder engine, the Soul is enjoyable around town, and feels satisfyingly quick when merging onto the freeway. The engine does get a bit raspy sounding during hard acceleration, but the automatic transmission shifts smartly and does a decently good job of holding gears on uphill grades to help the car maintain a constant speed. I have yet to drive a Soul with the 1.6, but I suspect that most buyers will opt for the 2.0, seeing as how it has more power, and gets just as good fuel economy.

     While the Soul doesn't really feel overly sporty, it does handle better than you might think. The steering has a reassuring weight to its effort at highway speeds and it feels precise when you are driving around turns. The brake pedal even has a reassuringly firm feel to it too! However, the Soul! does lose some of its appeal on long highway trips, due to the 18-inch wheels not liking to soak up the bumps very well. Also, the boxy shape does result in more wind noise at highway speeds, but if you can overlook this, than the 2015 Kia Soul might be the car for you.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Fast and Orange: 2015 Lexus RC 350 F-Sport

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 The all-new Lexus RC coupe is about the size of a Ford Mustang, but without all of the pony car heritage to go with it. It combines luxury with sporty intentions and delivers an aggressive package unlike anything else in the Lexus lineup. You could think of it as a true alternative to the Audi A5 or BMW 4 Series.

     Unlike the other automakers, the Lexus RC isn't just a 2-door version of a sedan. Instead, it is a blend of different elements put together for luxury coupe duty. The nose, for example, comes from the larger GS, while the center section comes from the IS convertible, and the rear comes from the new IS sedan.

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     This results in a car that is about 2 inches longer compared to the Audi A5 and BMW 4 Series coupes. The engine is the standard 3.6 liter V6 that feeds directly to an 8-speed automatic, unless you opt for all-wheel drive, then it feeds directly to a 6-speed automatic. Rated at 306 horsepower, the V6 is the only option unless you opt for the RC-F, then you get a V8.

     There are 2 versions of the RC 350 offered: The base RC 350, and the RC 350 F-Sport. The F-sport package includes an adaptive suspension package, 19-inch wheels and tires, sport seats with contrasting stitching, and digital instruments that Lexus says was inspired by the LFA.

     One step higher than the RC 350 is the RC F. That beast is powered by a 5.0 liter V8 that thumps out 467 horsepower, and is mated to a 8-speed Direct Shift transmission. I feel that the RC F is different enough to warrant it's own review, so stay tuned for that review.

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 There is a certain elegance to the way the V6 delivers its punch. It doesn't have enough power to truly overwhelm the chasis, but you can certainly build speed rather quickly if you aren't being careful. It's almost to easy going and the wide ratios of the 8-speed auto transmission mean that the engine is barely operating at higher than idle, up to about half-throttle.

     Leave the traction control and suspension settings in normal, and the RC 350 feels like it is singing bumps and lullabies to the road. It is more composed than a Mustang, but it also seems like it is asleep, like it doesn't want to be woken up to play.

     Its subdued nature doesn't mean that it isn't capable when you give it some gas. The variable-ratio steering comes alive as speed builds, and in Sport mode the suspension begins to tell you almost exactly what is going on. The chasis feels neutral, the tail nor nose feel like they want to wag, even when speeds go beyond legal.

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     By using the paddle shifters behind the steering wheel, it's easy to keep the V6 near its 4,800 rpm peak. However, there is only 277 pound feet of torque to keep the 3,800 lb car at speed, so there never is quite enough power to overwhelm you.

     It isn't a super fast car. the 0-60 mph time of 5.8 seconds is decent, but hardly enough to light the charts on fire. The quarter mile saunters by in 14.3 seconds at 99 mph, or the rough times of a Mustang or V6-powere Camaro. The 0.86g on the skidpad is also modest. Braking was solid overall, with short distances and not much fade to report.

     As you may have come to expect from a Lexus, almost every element of the RC 350's interior is well considered and perfectly stitched together. A wide center console defines the driving experience and divides the cockpit between occupants. A conventional shifter lies alongside the knob that adjusts the suspension, while a trackpad for the navigation and entertainment systems sits just behind it. When you throw in the straight forward instrumentation, and you feel like you are in a series driving situation.

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     The trackpad works well for operating most of the a/c, navigation and entertainment systems. It is an interesting alternative to all of the knobs and switches and buttons you might find on other vehicles in this class. Still, there is somewhat of a learning curve to all of the menus and options that you have.

     In contrast, the display directly in front of the driver is simple to the extreme. It does without a conventional speedometer in favor of a digital one.

     As for most coupes, the rear seat is only really useful for short trips. However, the front seats are among some of the best in the business. They are adjustable in an almost infinite number of ways, and comfortable in just about every way as well. It's luxurious and without being pretentious or over-decorated.

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The EPA rates the RC 350 at 19 city/28 highway for a combined number of 22. I observed 24 mpg during testing. There is an ECO mode that you can try, but i didn't observe a huge increase in numbers compared to standard or Sport.

     If you have just shipped the last of your brood off to college and feel the need to treat yourself to a 2-door coupe, the RC 350 is a softer, gentler easier going machine than many of the other choices in this class. It's luxurious first, sporty second, and good looking in many ways. The F-Sport adds a dose of masculinity to the car's personality that is rather attractive.